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Groton — Carl Kimmons was on a seaplane tender that left Pearl Harbor the day before the Japanese attacked.
On Friday, the 71st anniversary of the nation's day of 'infamy' when the Japanese launched a sneak attack on the U.S. Navy base at Oahu, Hawaii, Kimmons bowed his head and held his hat in his hand at the U.S. Subvets WWII National Submarine Memorial East as another veteran read President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's speech to Congress asking for a declaration of war.
Kimmons, now 92, and six other World War II veterans each fired the ceremonial cannon to mark the anniversary. About 40 people gathered at the memorial, one of the largest turnouts in recent years.
Kimmons said afterward that he was thinking of those who were lost that day as he listened to Roosevelt's words.
"It could've been us," he said.
Kimmons, of Waterford, served in the Navy from 1940 to 1970. He said he left the sub tender AVD-14 after the attack and asked to serve on submarines because he wanted to be in the middle of the action. He made seven war patrols, including one on the USS Parche (SS 384) that earned the submarine a Presidential Unit Citation.
Kimmons said he goes to Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremonies every year that he can to honor the friends he knew when he was stationed there and the people he never got a chance to meet.
Norman Kuzel said he joined the Navy because of people like Kimmons.
"A lot of exceptional people served on submarines," Kuzel, 78, of Lebanon, said at the ceremony. "They made a major impact on the U.S. winning World War II. They were an inspiration."